The usual five talking points ahead of today’s Premier League game away at Bournemouth.
New Manager Bounce
Arsenal certainly didn’t enjoy this under Freddie Ljungberg, with a draw at Norwich followed by a home defeat to Brighton in the Swede’s first two matches. Reputedly, the Swede told those above him that the players were slacking off, and seeing that the club were not helping the interim coach by allowing him to recruit any kind of a coaching team, probably realized he wasn’t going to be picking the team for too long. Everything’s changed with the appointment of Mikel Arteta though, and there is a very good chance he might outlast a large number of the squad, as you really get the feeling the club will be reluctant to change manager again, as a realization of how far things have fallen has finally hit home. So the Spaniard will be given time, although perhaps not too much by way of financial backing… which means players being sold so that others can be bought. How the current batch perform in the immediate matches will determine whether they have a future at the club.
We are hearing the right things
Arteta has stated he wants to see “commitment, accountability, aggression and passion to play this sport and to represent this football club. This is the basic I am going to demand from the players, and from there we can start to build things”. Ability and football intelligence are not on this list, but these are not going to be developed in three training sessions. At the moment, the new boss is asking for what he know his players can deliver. And you can go a long way with these as a starting point. Arteta has been impressive in front of a microphone, let’s hope his team perform as well.
Quite obviously, preventing the opposition from scoring goes a long way to winning football matches, and the last time that Arsenal kept a clean sheet in consecutive Premier League away games was February 2016. Yup, almost four years ago. Still, Arteta wanted to see some kind of response against Everton, and his team managed to avoid their opponents getting any attempts on target. Calum Chambers is suspended today, so with severely limited options, you have to imagine that David Luiz and Sokratis will both start. There is a chance Hector Bellerin might return at right back, and Bukayo Saka was at left back for the draw at Goodison Park. What happens in front of them is important though, and Arteta is all too well aware of the value of a shield in front of his defence, the most likely candidate surely Lucas Torreira.
The Slate Is Wiped Clean
Mesut Ozil was dropped for Everton after his petulance at home to Manchester City, and neither of Pepe or Lacazette has featured too much of late. Let’s throw a curved ball in with the news that Dani Ceballos may even be fit for selection. There are though slight concerns over Gabriel Martinelli’s hamstring. So with all that to consider, good luck predicting Arsenal’s starting line-up in attack. One thing that we do know is that Pep Guardiola favoured a 4-3-3 formation, with one holding midfielder, and plenty of forays forward from the full backs. If Granit Xhaka does get a start, he may find himself playing a very different role from before, as you can’t see him in the Fernandinho role.
Bournemouth have lost six of their last seven PL games, including the last three at home. And yet, the exception in this run was a win at Chelsea – go figure. In fairness to Eddie Howe, he’s done wonders, given his budget, to produce a team that has retained its Premier League status since promotion in 2015. They have only beaten Arsenal once in their history, winning 2-1 at home in Arsene Wenger’s final season. Aside from that there has been one draw (remember the 3-3 from Arsenal being three goals down) and eight wins. So history is on the visitors’ side.
We’re all looking for signs of a turnaround, and a first league away win since August would be a very satisfying start, and a good confidence booster given the next two opponents are Chelsea and Manchester United. Given Bournemouth’s run of form, the players being motivated by a new manager, and good old-fashioned hope, I am going for an Arsenal win. The game – along with the other nine fixtures from this round of Premier League matches – is exclusively live on the Amazon Prime streaming service. Now, given five of them kick off at the same time at Arsenal’s game, that means you can watch five in total between Boxing Day lunchtime and Friday evening, but here’s the really good news. Sign up to Amazon Prime and you get the first month free. And before the 30 days are up, you can cancel it, with no charge. So assuming you have an internet connection, there’s no reason you can’t catch the game. One thing’s for sure, with such a small away allocation at Bournemouth, not too many Gooners will be able to watch it in the flesh. Anyhow – you can sign up for your free month of Amazon Prime here. One final thing that we wait to see. Will Arteta embrace the current vogue of managers coming onto the pitch at the final whistle, hugging the players and applauding the fans? Might depend on the result of course. Will be interesting to see. Unai Emery never indulged such nonsense, and there is a feeling that Arteta likes to keep a distance between himself and his players, so might not be the demonstrative lovey-dovey sort we see from the likes of Klopp and Guardiola.
The campaign to save The Gooner for the 2020/21 season has now been launched. If you wish to see the fanzine continue printing after the end of the current season, please look at the details of how to subscribe can be found here. We need to secure 1,000 subscribers by the end of March 29th to continue.
The next issue of The Gooner (281), including a free 2020 'History of the Arsenal Crest' calendar will go on sale at the home match v Chelsea on December 29th. You can order your copy in advance from here (for UK orders) or if you are abroad, you can order here.
The December edition of the monthly (original) Gooner podcast can be listened to and downloaded here